Walford Bodie: The curious Scots magician who caused a Glasgow theatre riot

He claimed he could cure the sick and the disabled with his high-voltage brand of magic, but Walford Bodie’s promises were enough to start a riot in Glasgow when 500 students mobbed the Coliseum Theatre to pelt the showman with bombs of piecemeal, flour and rotten eggs.

Bodie, known as the Electric Wizard of the North, was a Scots magician who took the Victorian entertainment world by storm with his famous electric chair routine.

Confidently, he claimed he cured 900 ‘patients’ over his 30-year career.

Some well believed his claims, with Bodie awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 1905 for his working ‘curing’ the sick.

But the bombast and brags of Bodie led to a revolt by the medical profession. Also in 1905, he was taken to court by the Medical Defence Union over the use of the letters M.D following his name. Four years later, 500 medical students rammed the Glasgow theatre in order to attack the magician.

Bodie was reduced to hiding behind the stage left curtain as students attempted to invade the stage, some climbing over the orchestra pit to reach him. There were reports of injuries as police used truncheons to restore order with a number of students taken into custody.

“The attack was professionally organised. Notices were posted at the University calling upon the students to attend this evening’s performance at the Coliseum,” a newspaper report of the day said.

It added: “They marched to the hall, 500 strong, having booked a sufficient number of seats in the afternoon. There was ample indication that a storm was brewing.”

The students were in a ‘hilarious mood’ and broke into a chorus when Bodie’s turn was announced.

Then, they started chanting “For He is a Merry Devil” to the tune of “For He is A Jolly Good Fellow”.

When the curtain was raised at the Coliseum, the missiles were thrown with white and bluish clouds rising across the auditorium.

Bodie was seen standing in the wings but he later appeared on stage with his assistant, La Belle Electra.

Students stormed the stage and produced knives and saws to cut huge gashes in the curtain.

Fighting broke out and injuries were reported after police used their truncheons to try and quash the students. Disturbances broke out in other parts of the city, with Bodie later claiming the riots and the objections from the medical community were merely due to professional jealousy.

This year marks the 150th year of the birth of Bodie, an Aberdonian who later based himself in Macduff, Aberdeenshire.

He also owned several properties in London, including a luxury river boat on The Thames and a “potion and pills” factory and dispensary. Here, items such as Dr Bodie’s Famous Electric Liniment, which claimed to ‘kill pain in man or beast and cure a whole range of illnesses from paralysis to coughs’, could be obtained.

For 30 years, he was considered one of the most spectacular acts on the British entertainment circuit and appeared on stage with a long line of invalids, whom he treated in front of his audience.

“Every week received hundreds of letters from people he had cured, and often cheques for largo amounts were sent in the envelopes,” a newspaper report following his death in 1939 said.

Bodie was involved in several court cases over his lifetime, including a damages claim by a Charles Irving who gave the magician £1,000 to train with him for three years.

Irving said Bodie had misrepresented claims he could teach hypnotism and mesmerism, bloodless surgery and medical electricity and went to the courts to claim back his money.

The court case ended in Bodie demonstrating his electric chair routine in a private room in the court in the presence of a qualified electrician.

He told the court his experiments were scientific but admitted telling a “showman’s lie” when claiming in one of his books that he graduated in medicine.

Bodie lost the case and repaid Irving the £1,000. On summing up, the judge quoted Bodie’s written statement that the magician’s ‘force was like the Centaur’.

“The Centaur was purely an imaginary creature,” the judge said.

To mark the 150th anniversary of Bodie’s birth, Aberdeenshire Council will exhibit a number of relics related to the magician at an exhibition in Peterhead this summer.

Magician Dean Spruce, of Macduff, has long studied the life of Bodie, who suffered a form of nervous breakdown following the controversies which led to one of his London homes being broken into and trashed.

He had already suffered a murder bid in Birmingham.

But Bodie bounced back, with a record breaking show in Tonypandy in Glamorgan in 1912 which led to fighting among those clamouring for a seat in the theatre and the manager praising the “gigantic crowd” which was converted by Bodie’s “marvellous cures”.

Nevertheless, the post-war depression was to dim the shine of the once sold-out performer.

Mr Spruce said: “I was a Bodie fan but the more I found out about him, the less I liked him .

“But he was a huge performer, he was rich, Edward VII was a huge fan and he knew the King. He really couldn’t get much bigger.

“I was curious as to why he was forgotten given how big he was. People like Houdini are remembered, Bodie was not. He was a show off and the medical profession just thought he was a quack.”

Magicians did not like Bodie either with the performer blackballed from the Magician’s Circle in 1913.

Bodie, like most in his game, started his magic young. By 10, he was a sleight of hand performer. At 16, he joined the army after getting his cousin pregnant. By 18, he married Banff woman Jean Henry and then from there he embarked on a travelling horse-drawn show with the help of his new wife’s large family.

Bodie, despite the showman’s lies and fakery, also had a kind side. In 1891, he did a week-long run in Thurso and donated all of his profits to the town following the death of two sailors from the town.

Spruce said his breakthrough act was a very traditional Spitting Image-style show where used puppets and ventriloquy to mimic the War Cabinet during the Boer War.

His Window Stunt of 1901 upped his profile even more. On arriving in a town for a show run, he stuck a coffin in a shop window and placed a person – usually a woman – in the casket. There, she lay for a week in a deep state of hypnosis with the trick a highly effective promotion tool.

Bodie died after collapsing on stage in Blackpool in 1940. He may not be remembered as much as his good friend Henry Houdini, but there is no doubt that the curious exploits of Walter Bodie are hard to forget.

Source – Scotsman

Jibrizy, the millennial magician and hip-hop illusionist

Jibrizy Taylor is a hip-hop illusionist and magician. The Chicago native discovered magic by watching David Blaine when he was 8 years old, and that was a life-changing moment for the magician-to-be.

He began to fuel his dream by learning tricks, watching the greats. He then started posting videos to Youtube showing off his skills, and that’s when things started to take off. He became the youngest winner of the CW Television Network’s show “Penn & Teller Fool Us.”

Today, Jibrizy has amassed 182,000 followers on Instagram.  He dropped by rolling out studios to talk about his craft and how he has become a social media sensation.

What drew you to magic as a career?

I don’t really feel like I chose it, I feel like it chose me. I would die if I couldn’t do magic. … I love it that much. You cannot pull me out of the realm of what I like to do. I’m that dedicated. Read more

Trigg Watson is the Millennial’s Magician

It was a misty October day in the Cedars when I pulled up to Checkered Past Winery. I found a lone spot on the crowded street and parallel parked in one try, but that was just the beginning of the magic I was destined to experience that Friday afternoon.

I came to meet Trigg Watson, magician extraordinaire, whose monthly series Wine & Magic has become a low-key hit at the wine bar and eatery.

The reason for the show’s success is pretty clear: Watson is not your average birthday party trickster. The man’s been doing magic since he was four years old, and he’s been performing professionally since about age 11.

“I had these little business cards, I was available to perform at summer camps and libraries,” he says.

The young entrepreneur grew up and got a job in the corporate world, but he continued performing in his time off. Eventually, he gave in to his unusual vocation. Read more

Magician from Broadway’s ‘The Illusionists’ to appear at Genesee

He’s known for putting cell phones into blenders while their owners have heart palpitations nearby.

Adam Trent — who did the iPhone-in-the-blender trick on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” show in 2016 — comes to the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan for a 7:30 p.m. show Oct. 25.

He’s a rising star in the magic world and is fresh from Broadway, where he appeared in the show “The Illusionists.” His stage show — of which he does about 100 a year — is parts magic, stand-up comedy and technical-spectacle.

Trent got his start with a magic book he got when he was 8 years old. Before long, he was performing at kids’ birthday parties.

“The birthday party gigs became bigger, one thing led to the next and here I am 25 years later still doing it,” he said.

He makes it sound so easy, right?

“It certainly was not easy,” he said. “Most careers, when you want to get to the top, you can at least see the path you want to go. If you want to be a lawyer, you go to a great law school, work for a great law firm and put in your time. Whereas entertainment, and magic specifically, is quite different.

“There are a thousand ways you can go and maybe all those paths lead nowhere. Thankfully, it’s something I love so I kept doing it. Eventually things worked out after putting in the time.”

He’s appeared on shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “The Today Show” and “Rachael Ray.”

“I do a mix of everything. It’s a family-friendly show that has a mix of music, comedy and magic,” he said. “The good news is, if you like magic, obviously it’s a show for you. If you don’t like magic, it’s still a show for you because there are so many different elements to it. There’s lots of audience participation, people are coming on stage constantly. I take someone’s phone and put it in a blender. There’s all kinds of interesting little social things happening as well.”

He spent three years on Broadway with “The Illusionists,” so his show is grand in style and scope, he said.

“I do things with technology. I have these giant screens and I clone myself and teleport myself across the stage,” he said. “It’s a futuristic style of magic.”

Putting together something so grand was no easy feat. There are parts of the show he’s been working on for 15 years, he said.

“It’s always trial and error with these things,” he said.

He adds about 20-30 minutes of new material a year, so every few years he has a new show. And if you’ve seen him before, it’s almost a new show every time because the audience participation is always different, he said.

“Each show kind of takes on its own form,” he said. “It’s probably the most interactive magic show touring at the moment. There are parts where every single person in the audience — the magic happens in their hands.”

The best comment he likes to get is when people tell him they don’t like magic shows but they love his act, he said.

“That’s my favorite thing, when I can turn a non-magic fan into a magic fan,” he said. “I always say this is a show for people who did not know they were fans of magic.

“Part of the reason I started magic was I saw a magician perform,” he said. “I think it’s amazing to bring Broadway-caliber magic — I’m doing magic directly from the Broadway show ‘The Illusionists’ — to (places) like Waukegan.”

He also has a 10-episode series on Netflix called “The Road Trick,” where he travels around the world using magic as an icebreaker to meet locals, he said.

“I got to experience all of these crazy cultural things,” he said. “Magic was the vehicle to make that happen.”

Waukegan audiences can expect to see his Broadway-sized magic, he said.

“Whether this is your first magic show or your hundredth magic show, you’re going to see the most spectacular technological magic that’s currently out there,” he said. “I’m known for my blend of technology with magic. I’d say bring the whole family … and give it a chance.”


Robot learns magic tricks for Netflix show, but won’t endanger human jobs

MAGI grasped a silver cup between its two metal claws in one hand. With the other hand, the robot dropped a red, bubble gum-sized ball into the cup.

A graduate student sat in the background, his hand hovering over an emergency stop button.

After a couple of rigid waves over the cup for dramatic effect, MAGI turned the cup upside down to reveal red confetti, the ball nowhere in sight.

MAGI used to be the top half of an emergency responder robot that could open doors and turn levers in hazardous situations. Now, it sits in the corner of UCLA’s Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory, wearing a red bow tie and performing beginner-level magic tricks.

MAGI, which stands for Magic, Arts and Gaming Initiative, is one of many robots, including the marimba-playing robot and dancing robot, attempting to enter the entertainment industry.

“There are jobs we generally thought were safe for humans, like creative jobs,” said Dennis Hong, the principle investigator of RoMeLa and an amateur magician. “Because of advancements in artificial intelligence, robots are going to start to take over jobs in those fields.”

But this robot still needs to master the mechanics of basic tricks before it threatens any magician jobs, said Matthew Williams, a graduate student in the lab.

“Robots are dumb while human motion is smart and there are a lot of complications that go into trying to create a human motion,” Williams said.

Researchers in the lab built MAGI in one week to perform in one episode of a Netflix show called “Magic for Humans,” which funded the project. During that week, graduate students spent more than 40 hours practicing the tricks and fixing pieces when they broke.

Sometimes an elbow motor would fail carrying heavy props. Sometimes an arm would shoot out unprompted, nearly hitting the graduate students. Once, the robot exhausted its engine grasping at nothing.

“We’re dealing with a robot that wants to potentially break itself to get what we want it to do,” Williams said.

The robot executed its tricks well for the Netflix taping but lost an arm after only a few performances.

ustin Quan, another graduate student in the lab, said he thinks the robot could perform more complex tricks if researchers had more time and newer equipment. He said it might even be able to create its own tricks using artificial intelligence.

Steve Spill, a performer and founder of the magic theater Magicopolis in Santa Monica, said he does not feel like his career is threatened by robots like MAGI, even if they are able to create their own magic tricks.

“If you gave ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ to Bob Dylan or Taylor Swift, they would all sing the song and it would have a part of them in it. That’s what art is,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the trick, it has nothing to do with the song, it’s about the performer.”

Hong said he thinks robots could eventually exceed magicians’ abilities in technically challenging tricks by adding features such as extra fingers and hidden pockets.

However, he said part of the appeal of magic is understanding basic human limitations and then watching the magician violate them in a trick.

“You assume ‘that’s a robot, it could have built things into it’,” Hong said. “That’s no fun because you start with the assumption that (the robot) has abilities better than the audience.”

Spill agreed, comparing it to magic on television.

“You can’t help but think maybe there’s trick photography or something happening out of the frame of the screen,” he said. “The same could be said about robots.”

Hong also said successful magicians have many intangible qualities robots will never be able to recreate.

“This gets into the realm of what artificial intelligence can and cannot do,” Hong said. “We have the technology to build robots that look and feel like they have emotions, but I do not believe we’ll be able to build a robot with true emotion.”